Advocating champions

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The prime minster, an advocate of cycling and walking to work, referred to a certain setback in his State of the Nation address:

I would also like to report that the government has not given up on its dream to make Thimphu a bicycle and pedestrian city despite the initial setback.

What is that “initial setback” that the prime minister lamented? After all, the government has made no serious attempts to promote cycling (apart from installing a few bicycle stands in the capital) or to encourage walking (besides the agriculture minister’s famous HEHE walks).

Bicycles. In particular the 400 bicycles that were donated by a Buddhist group to the prime minister during his visit to Japan last year. The prime minister had boasted that he would distribute them to civil servants who promised to cycle to work. And they had responded, in overwhelming numbers, for the free bikes.

The bicycles have arrived, some 358 of them. But virtually all of them are not road worthy. Not in Thimphu, at least. All of them are single-gear bikes. All of them are used bikes (bought into the country despite the government’s ban on importing second-hand vehicles). And, most of them have been damaged beyond repair.

The bicycles must be fixed. As many of them as possible, even if two bikes have to be combined to make one. And they should be used, to whatever extent possible.

But, they are not mountain bikes. And they do not have multiple gears. So, they’re of little use in Thimphu. Dispatch them, instead, to Gelephu and Samtse, where the topography is not as demanding.

And close the chapter on that “initial setback”.

The prime minister can do more than “dream” of making Thimphu a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly city. He can lead by example:

  • He can bike to office once in a while.
  • He can walk around town occasionally.
  • And when he must travel by car, he can use fewer of them.

... for this!

Everything else – safer pavements, bicycle paths, educated motorists, bike dealerships, and affordable financing – will then fall into place naturally.

And our prime minister would become a true champion – not just a mere advocate – of biking and walking in the capital.